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Criticism of hate crime laws deemed ‘performative nonsense’ by Scottish minister

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie responded to opponents including the writer JK Rowling.

Patrick Harvie

Opponents of new hate crime laws have been accused of “performative nonsense” by a Scottish Government minister – who warned their actions could have “real world consequences”.

Scottish Green Party co-leader and Holyrood minister Patrick Harvie made the comments at the end of a week in which the legislation has come under fire from critics including Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

The writer, already a fierce opponent of the Scottish Government’s stance on transgender rights, hit out as new powers under the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act came into force on Monday.

In posts on social media, Rowling misgendered a number of trans people and then effectively challenged police to arrest her under the new laws.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Harvie hit out at those who he said had set out to spread “deliberate misinformation, the deliberate confusion” about the legislation.

He said those spreading such “propaganda” are “seeking to not just undermine the hate crime legislation in Scotland, but are seeking to continue to ferment a divisive culture war agenda, a toxic and dangerous agenda”.

The new legislation, which has already resulted in thousands of complaints to Police Scotland, consolidated existing laws.

While stirring up racial hatred was already a crime, the new laws extended this protection to other people on the grounds of age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

Mr Harvie claimed opponents of the change “deliberately try to pretend every expression of prejudice or just nastiness or anything offensive or hurtful is going to be criminalised”, adding: “As soon as the Act comes into force they start performatively coming out with these prejudiced, hurtful statements and saying ‘arrest me, arrest me’ in this petulant manner.

“Then when they don’t get arrested they try to claim some hollow victory.

“It really is performative nonsense. If it was just a game they were playing it would be shallow and silly and trivial, but it has real world consequences.”

JK Rowling has been a prominent critic of the extension of hate crime laws (Yui Mok/PA)

He said the “furore” created by such actions “emboldens those in our society who genuinely do pose a real threat of abuse and violence against marginalised groups in our society”.

He also claimed right-wing campaigners had been “deliberately promoting misinformation about this Act all the way through”.

The Scottish Green co-leader, speaking ahead of his party’s spring conference in Edinburgh on Saturday, said: “They know very clearly for the most part this is about bringing together and consolidating existing laws, and taking  a concept like stirring up hatred, which has been on the books for 40 years in relation to racial hatred, and simply applying the same principle to other vulnerable and marginalised groups.

“This is very clearly legislation that is well familiar in our system and the threshold for prosecution is high, and rightly so.”

The Green MSP told how he had “experienced homophobia and other prejudice against the LGBT+ community throughout my entire life”, adding that “growing up queer in the west of Scotland in the 1980s was not a safe place to be”.

Speaking about how he had “experienced prejudice and homophobia in my personal life” and “seen it in politics and the media”, he added there is now a “very deliberately cultivated culture war in politics”.

Mr Harvie said the “nasty, toxic divisiveness that has been created” means it feels “like things are getting worse” for those in marginalised groups.

He said: “The kind of divisiveness that is being deliberately created is going to continue to worsen the experience of a great many marginalised groups. That’s why the hate crime legislation is needed.”

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